Your medical queries

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS

By Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS

This column is a part of our personal public heath education campaign for disease prevention and a healthier society the past five decades. We welcome medical questions from you, our readers. Here are some of them with my informational reply.

 Could repeated x-rays cause cancer?

No, an annual chest x-ray will not cause cancer. The dose of radiation that one gets with a chest x-ray is so minimal, about 30 millirems, which is even less than the radiation exposure one gets from travelling by air (where you will be nearer the sun) for a 4-hours flight, say to another Asian country. The cut-off safety limit per year is 5000 millirems, which would be equivalent to about 166 chest x-ray exposures. A chest x-ray once a year, or even 20 such radiation exposures in a year, is safe. The basic rule is, of course, the lesser radiation the better, but if it medically necessary, chest x-ray or other x-rays should be performed without worry.

What causes burning urination?

If you were just married, it would be what is popularly known as “honeymoon cystitis,” where bladder infection had developed following foreplay and sex. Obviously, physical trauma and hygiene play a big role in this situation. This type of infection is common, even among those women, and rarely in men also, who have been married for sometime, with or without children. This is the reason  why we recommend for partners to take a shower or a bath, wash their hands thoroughly, etc., before (and after) sex, and be reasonably gentle and not violent during the act. If the symptoms persist for more than a day, consult your physicians, who will evaluate your condition and most likely prescribe the appropriate antibiotics for your urinary infection. Be careful because repeated infection could lead to more serious complications.

 Should I finish all my antibiotics?

Physicians prescribe specific antibiotics for specific infection (bacteria). From clinical research done by the drug companies on each antibiotic they produce, specific recommendation for the standard dosage and the length of treatment is derived and made to effect a “cure.” It is advisable for you to finish the full course of antibiotic that your physician has prescribed for you, otherwise the bacteria may not be fully killed and the infection might recur after a few days. To prevent the development of drug-resistant superbugs that could later render your body helpless and kill you, do not take any antibiotic unless prescribed by your diligent and vigilant physician.

Can one get AIDS from kissing or holding hands?

Experts say that HIV infection is not transmitted by kissing (as long as the mucus membrane is intact) or holding hands, or (intact) skin to skin contact, but mucous membrane contact with blood or body fluids of someone infected with HIV, unprotected sexual intercourse with AIDS victim can definitely transmit this deadly disease. The best behavior is to avoid partners that are at high risk of having HIV, but if this is not possible, use condom. One must be cautious to make sure the condom is durable, intact and not have a hole in it. One could get the HIV infection even after only one, yes just one, sexual encounter. Remember, having AIDS is like having a death sentence hanging over your head.

 Should chest pains worry me?

Chest pains could be due to a variety of causes, not necessarily coronary heart disease. However, if it happens fairly regularly, especially on exertion, more so if you have a family history of heart disease, it is prudent for you to have a medical check-up and at least a Stress Test. Chest pains should never be ignored. In the United States, Chest Pain Clinics have sprouted in medical centers all over the country, if only to underscore the seriousness with which chest pains are considered. And this pays dividends in the form of early detection and lowering the mortality rate from coronary heart disease. If prevention has been neglected, early diagnosis is the next best thing to a better survival in almost all medical conditions.

 Why is salt bad for my high blood pressure?

Table salt, patis, soy sauce, bagoong, or anything salty, when ingested, increases the sodium content in our body. This causes fluid retention (sodium attracts water), through various mechanisms in our body, and increases our blood/fluid volume. If you increase the volume in a system that already has a high pressure, it is easy to understand why the pressure gets up higher. The better choice for patients with hypertension is to use spices, instead of table salt, etc., (in cooking) to make food taste better. Staying away from salt and salty food will lead to a better controlled (treated) high blood pressure, and reduces the chances of developing complications like stroke.

Do I need surgery for my groin hernia?

This depends on the size and whether you have symptoms or not. Some hernias do not need surgical repair at all. Other hernias could lead to trapping of a part of your gut through the hernia hole (ring) and cause bowel obstruction or even gangrene, which are serious conditions. We recommend that you get a medical checkup to see whether you need anything done at all.

How did I get sore eyes?

Sore eyes (conjunctivitis) is an acute inflammation of the inner lining of the upper and lower eyelids, caused by adenoviruses, bacteria or allergy. They eyes becomes painful, burning, reddened and sticky with secretions. Conjunctival irritation with dust, smoke, wind and other air pollutants may be associated, or accompanying the presence of a common cold or measles. Avoidance of close contact with someone with sore eyes or touching any items touched by the patient, and maintaining good hygiene (washing hands often after contact) are most essential to minimize the chances of getting infected.

The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people, especially parents, whose way of life inevitably impacts the health of their children, to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities, and achieve a happier and more productive life for themselves and for their offspring. My articles are general medical information for the public and not intended to be applicable to, or appropriate for, anyone. The data, statistics, and personal commentaries presented here are not a substitute for, or inferred to be superior to, the professional opinion and recommendation of your physician, who knows your total condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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